Are Your Shoulders and Back Causing Swing Issues? The Lat Length Test for Golfers
It’s pretty obvious that shoulder movement and back flexibility are important aspects of the golf swing.
Many golfers have trouble with simple shoulder flexion (lifting the arms out in front of the body and overhead).
TPI evaluated almost 18,000 amateur golfers, and over 40% didn’t have as much shoulder flexion as the average professional golfer.
A shoulder flexion limitation will cause a golfer to compensate body position to get their hands higher in the backswing. When golfers compensate body position, they either lose posture or reduce their rotational capabilities causing errant golf shots and loss of distance.
The lat length test evaluates shoulder flexion and more importantly for the golfer wishing to correct swing issues, the test will differentiate limitations and provide a path to fix the issues.
Performing the lat length test will give you information if you have shoulder joint restrictions, scapular motion limitations, or flexibility problems in the latissimus dorsi muscle group.
Exercises to help correct some shoulder flexion issues are also included at the bottom of this post.
Eleventh in a Series
The lat length test is the eleventh post in a series of mobility screen articles for golfers.
To receive notice when I publish new mobility screen articles, click the “Alert Me” button below and I will send you an e-mail when they are available.
Further down in this article there is also a free Mobility Screening Sheet that you can download and track your results as you go through the whole mobility screening process.
The links to the other mobility screens are listed below.
Objective of the Lat Length Test
The lat length test evaluates shoulder flexion, shoulder joint restrictions and issues with scapular movement as well as the flexibility of the latissimus dorsi muscle group.
The latissimus group, or lat for short, is the largest back muscle that controls the internal rotation and adduction of your upper arm. So as you can imagine, the lat contributes a lot of power to the golf swing.
The lat also supports movement and stability of the scapula and is thus necessary for shoulder movement patterns that can affect shoulder mobility.
If the lat length test shows you have limitations, knowing what caused you to fail the test is vital in developing a conditioning program that will eliminate the dysfunction and allow you to swing more freely at the golf ball while staying in posture.
How to Perform the Lat Length Test
For the test, you’ll need to wear athletic shoes for traction and have an alignment rod (you can use a golf club, but an alignment rod works better) handy. You’ll also need a smooth wall or the side of a building that isn’t too rough or have overlapping siding.
- Lean against the wall and slide down until you’re almost in a sitting position. Your thighs can be slightly above parallel to the floor.
- Your feet should be shoulder width apart.
- Flatten you back against the wall; you need to eliminate the arch in your lower back and keep it that way throughout the test.
- Use the alignment rod as a gauge. Slide it between the wall and the arch in your lower back, so a majority of the rod is sticking out and is parallel to the floor. If your back arches during the test, the alignment rod will drop down or fall out.
- Raise your arms up parallel to the floor with your thumbs up and elbows locked out straight. Your arms should be about a foot apart.
- Slowly raise both arms until they’re over your head as far as you can make them go, without arching your back or bending your elbows.
- Once your elbows bend, or you arch your back, the test is over. You can try the test 2 or 3 times until you get the hang of holding your back flat against the wall. You’ll find you will get a little better each time, but eventually, there will be a place where the test breaks down.
- Take note where your bicep is relative to your nose.
- If your thumbs touched the wall behind your head, that is great; the test is over.
- However, if one or both arms didn’t reach the wall, repeat the test one arm at a time. Take note where your bicep is relative to your nose.
- It will be either be below your nose, even with your nose or between your nose and the wall.
- Repeat with the other arm and mark the results on your Mobility Screen Sheet.
TMF Mobility Screening Sheet
You can download a copy of the TMF Mobility Screening Sheet by pressing the button below and entering your name and e-mail and I’ll deliver it to your inbox.
Near the end of the video below, I discuss how you should mark the results of the test on your mobility screening sheet.
How Did You Do?
It’s not necessary to touch the wall, but you should be close. If you can get your arms above your nose about to ear level that is good. Not even the majority of professional golfers can touch the wall, but most can reach their ear.
Having an imbalance is often common, as you saw in the video, my right arm touched the picture frame, but my left arm couldn’t.
When I first did this test at the TPI seminar, I couldn’t get either arm above my nose without arching my back. I had no control of my pelvis and no core stability in my golf swing.
So shoulder flexion limitations can be corrected.
The test can also tell you something about how you swing a golf club and what you need to work on to swing better.
If you bent your elbows, most likely you take the club back on the inside instead of looking for more swing width. You need more lat flexibility in that case.
If you broke the test by arching your back, you’re losing core stability to gain more length in your backswing. You either need more shoulder mobility, or core stability to disassociate your upper and lower bodies.
Reach and Roll
I do this exercise quite a bit, either with a stability ball, or laying my arms on the coffee table and lowering my head and neck below my arms in the gap between the table and my body.
T’s, Y’s, W’s, and L’s
This is a classic shoulder mobility and lat stretch. The key is to try and relax your neck and traps.
Supine Arm Reach
Great exercise to correct lat limitations. Listen to the last part of the video that is the important part, if you do arch your back, the resistance band will compress your lower spine letting you know it’s not flat to the floor. When you keep your back flat, you’ll feel no compression in your spine. Instead, it will be working your shoulders.
If you can’t get your arms flat on the ground over your head, don’t force it. Hold the band as far back as possible while keeping your back flat on the floor and your elbows locked. You will gain more range of motion if you keep at the exercise.
By the way, the band used in the video is called a Gray Cook or FMT band. The FMT is a handy band for this kind of exercise. You can purchase an FMT band at Amazon.
The Lat Length Test evaluates your ability to lift your arms in shoulder flexion above your head as well as test the flexibility of your lat muscles. Use this test as a baseline before doing a golf conditioning program, to see if you need to add more mobility and flexibility from your shoulders, reduce the chance of injury, or as part of a golf conditioning correction program.
This is the eleventh of sixteen mobility screens. If you’re interested in being notified when the next screen is published click the Alert Me button below, and I will send you an e-mail when they’re published.
You can read more about why mobility screens are a vital part of any golf conditioning program in Put the Horse in Front of the Cart and Get With the Fitness Program.
If you think someone else might be interested in these mobility screens, use the social share buttons along the left side of the article to share with your friends. If you would like to follow me on social media, I’m on the sites below.
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